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Diabetes: The Biography

Out of Print
By: Robert Tattersall
256 pages, 15 black and white illustrations
Diabetes: The Biography
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  • Diabetes: The Biography ISBN: 9780199541362 Hardback Oct 2009 Out of Print #181223
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About this book

Diabetes is a disease with a fascinating history and one that has been growing dramatically with urbanization. According to the World Health Authority, it now affects 4.6% of adults over 20, reaching 30% in the over 35s in some populations. It is one of the most serious and widespread diseases today. But the general perception of diabetes is quite different. At the beginning of the 20th century, diabetes sufferers mostly tended to be middle-aged and overweight, and could live tolerably well with the disease for a couple of decades, but when it occasionally struck younger people, it could be fatal within a few months. The development of insulin in the early 1920s dramatically changed things for these younger patients. But that story of the success of modern medicine has tended to dominate public perception, so that diabetes is regarded as a relatively minor illness. Sadly, that is far from the case, and diabetes can produce complications affecting many different organs. Robert Tattersall, a leading authority on diabetes, describes the story of the disease from the ancient writings of Galen and Avicenna to the recognition of sugar in the urine of diabetics in the 18th century, the identification of pancreatic diabetes in 1889, the discovery of insulin in the early 20th century, the ensuing optimism, and the subsequent despair as the complexity of this now chronic illness among its increasing number of young patients became apparent. Yet new drugs are being developed, as well as new approaches to management that give hope for the future. Diabetes affects many of us directly or indirectly through friends and relatives. This book gives an authoritative and engaging account of the long history and changing perceptions of a disease that now dominates the concerns of health professionals in the developed world.


1. The pissing evil: defining the disease; 2. Unravelling the role of the pancreas; 3. Insulin: a force of magical activity; 4. The dark ages: once daily insulins, free diets, and a sense of doom; 5. Treating long term complications in the eyes, kidenys, and nerves; 6. Adult onset diabetes and the long awaited oral treatment; 7. At the laboratory bench: new insulins and hopes of a cure for type 1 diabetes; 8. The pharmaceutical era: a pill for everything; 9. Diabetes becomes epidemic: the penalty of progress; Further reading

Customer Reviews

Out of Print
By: Robert Tattersall
256 pages, 15 black and white illustrations
Media reviews

A first-rate and much-needed history...It deserves to and will be widely read. Michael Bliss, Emeritus Professor of History, Toronto, and author of 'The Discovery of Insulin' Anyone interested in medical discoveries, lay or professional alike, would read it with pleasure. Peter Watkins, Clinical Medical This book is very interesting to read...Rarely has the history of the discovery of insulin been summarised in such a balanced way. Victor Jorgens, European Association for the Studies of Diabetes, Diabetologia It is a marvellous piece of writing, extremely well written. David Kerr, Diabetes Digest This book should be compulsory reading for anyone offering diabetes care. David Kerr, Diabetes Digest Robert Tattersall has compiled a fact-filled, comprehensive pictyre of Diabetes. Nursing Care Tattersall's biography provides the reader with illuminating and fascinating stories...This is essential reading. Diabetes & Primary Care In this remarkably succinct, comparative, and engaging book, Tattersall offers a comprehensive and thorough history. Journal of the History of Medicine An important contribution to the history of medicine, it should be read by all. Journal of the History of Medicine In his "biography" of the disease...Tattersall provides a complete yet very readable history. Thomas A. Buchanan, American Journal of Epidemiology He does an outstanding job of conveying the increasing knowledge of medical and social aspects of the disease. Thomas A. Buchanan, American Journal of Epidemiology The author and editors are to be commended for producing a text that can be understodd by experts and laypeople alike. Thomas A. Buchanan, American Journal of Epidemiology Robert Tattersall... provides as authoritative a handbook of the known facts as can exist. George Rousseau, Times Literary Supplement The notion of an ailment having a birth, a lifespan, and - ideally - a an illuminating and useful concept. Wendy Moore, British Medical Journal These four 'biographies' of diseases go far beyond questions of biology or medical practice; they talk politics, sex and class, faith. The Scotsman Fascinating stuff. The Scotsman The stories they tell are often fascinating and alarming - pitched somewhere between farce, genius, horror and a lab report. The Scotsman

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